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Sun, Aug 19, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Ma's trips become debate fodder

OVERSEAS VISITS The Taipei mayor is back from his latest foray abroad and city councilors disagree on whether the trips merit the NT$10 million he's spent so far

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) return from yet another overseas trip this week, city councilors are divided over whether such trips bring any benefits to taxpayers.

On his latest trip, Ma led a 95-person delegation to Malaysia, Japan and Korea between Aug. 5 and Aug. 15. The delegation visited Kuala Lumpur's Light Rail Transit system and city hall, inspected Seoul's Internet cafes and sewage system and saw Fukuoka's museums and domed stadium.

As of August this year, Ma has taken 13 official overseas trips, spending over NT$10 million since he was sworn in as the city's mayor in December 1998.

While President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) served as Taipei's mayor from December 1994 to December 1998, he made a total of 15 official overseas trips, spending over NT$19 million.

Ma's Kaohsiung counterpart, Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), has taken five official overseas trips since he assumed office in December 1998, spending about NT$5 million.

Each year, the Taipei City Council allocates about NT$170,000 to each of the city government's 31 bureaus and departments for overseas trip expenses.

Ma can also request additional funds from an NT$800 million second supplementary fund, money which is reserved for disasters and other uses approved on a case-by-case basis by the city council.

New Party City Councilor Lee Ching-yuan (李慶元) said that it is important that Ma and other municipal officials take overseas trips, especially when the city council is in recess.

"As the head of the state's capital and a rising star in his own political party, Ma cannot afford to isolate [himself]," he said. "Conducting overseas trips not only gives his personal reputation a boost but also enhances his international image and recognition."

Lee also said that Ma's absence provides a time his administration can be put to the test.

"If his absence created any disorder within the city government, that would imply serious problems with his leadership," he said. "A good leader should know how to delegate. When the person is not around, the company should still operate soundly."

DPP city councilor Yeh Hsin-yi (葉信義), however, expressed different views.

"I don't care whether they have any agenda during their trips or if the purpose is purely sightseeing. What matters -- and what the public should care about -- is whether they learn anything from their trips after spending such a substantial amount of money," he said.

"If the answer is yes, then I'm very curious to know whether they have tried to integrate what they've learned from the trips to make our city a better place."

Yeh said that the results of Ma's 13 trips have had little impact yet.

"What he does is simply put on a show. Frankly speaking, I don't see much improvement being made since he took office," he said.

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